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Take your retirement-plan lumps

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Q. I am at the point where I must begin taking distributions from my retirement plans. Can I arrange to receive a lump sum each year instead of monthly payments? T.F.W., Green Bay, WI

A. Yes. As a general rule, you must begin taking distributions from a qualified plan no later than April 1 of the year following the year you turn age 70½ (unless you’re still working and you’re not a 5%-or-more owner). The IRS now provides greater flexibility on withdrawal methods. IRS tables are set up for monthly withdrawals, but you can choose to take an annual lump sum instead.

Tip: The distribution is based on your account balance on Dec. 31 of the prior year. That way, the annual distributions won’t be affected by ups and downs in account value.

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